One of my favorite fantasy book tropes is the reluctant hero! I am a sucker for someone who needs to save the world but really does not want to! All of these books have really great reluctant heroes, so let me know which one is your favorite!
Reluctant Hero Fantasy Books
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We all love a hero, but sometimes that hero doesn’t even want to BE a hero. One of my favorite fantasy book tropes is the hero who is reluctant. One who would rather not be the chosen one. Someone who doesn’t think they are “good enough” to save the world. A lot of these heroes just want a normal life, but unfortunately for them, they just can’t have it.
The Nature of Witches
In the Nature of Witches, our main character is what they call an Everwitch. She is the only one in the past hundred years and her powers are immense. Everyone around her knows she can easily be the one to save the world from its self-imposed ecological destruction.
The problem? She wants nothing more than to get rid of her powers. She doesn’t want to be a savior, doesn’t want to even be a witch. While she plans to get rid of her powers because she believes herself to be “too dangerous”, the world has other plans for this reluctant heroine.
This was a great fantasy standalone book, and one that I think would be perfect for a quick read when you don’t want something too dense. There is a great romance element to the story as well which doesn’t take over the plot but does add a lot to it. If you are interested, then I recommend checking out my spoiler-free Nature of Witches review.
If you are looking for an entire group of reluctant heroes, then check out The Disasters by MK England. This is a fun sci-fi space romp with amazing queer characters who really don’t want anything to do with saving the universe.
In this sci-fi standalone, we follow a group of space-school rejects. Every one of our main characters has been kicked out of this prestigious school on the moon, ON THE FIRST DAY. As they wait to be shuttled away back home, the school is attacked. Everyone else is slaughtered and our heroes barely survived.
Now they are on the run and basically forced into figuring out the conspiracy behind the massacre. This is a seriously underrated book that I wish more people would read and enjoy!
City of Brass
In book one, City of Brass, we follow Nahri. She is an orphaned con-woman living on the streets of Cairo. One night during one of her big cons, Nahri accidentally summons a djinn warrior. Now she must be taken to the mythical land of Devabad to learn exactly who she really is.
Nahri simply wants to live her life. She never wanted to be a hero and never wanted to live a magical life. Unfortunately for her, she is thrust into a new life where she must fight not only for herself but for her people.
Nahri is a strong female character in every sense of the word. She is also quite the amazing unwilling hero of her own story.
The Queen of Blood
Another one of my favorite fantasy series, Queens of Renthia, features not one but two reluctant heroes. In the first book, Queen of Blood, we follow Delina, a child living in the forest with her family. When her town is attacked, she becomes aware of her magical abilities to control the forest spirits. As she grows older, she is sent to a specialized school to train with other magical girls.
While she wants to protect her family, she has no aspirations to be The Queen. In this world, the Queen is the strongest magical female who inherits the throne based on ability instead of bloodlines. She just wants to get by and live her best life.
In the second book, we are introduced to a new character who also only wants to live her life and cares nothing about being a savior. This character is a middle-aged mom of two ( you know I love fantasy moms) who simply wants to raise her children in a safe home. But because of her power, she is also thrust into a hero role that she doesn’t want.
The Hunger Games
Can we even talk about books with reluctant heroes without mentioning the Hunger Games?
Of course, pretty much everyone knows about this series. Either because they have read the books, seen the movies, or both! SO I won’t give you a rundown of the synopsis, but I will say that Katniss is a quintessential reluctant heroine.
She only wants to save herself and her sister. Katniss doesn’t want to be a revolutionary. She has no desire to be a political figurehead. But in this world, that is exactly what she becomes.
Bone Shard Daughter
If you are looking for a unique fantasy book, then the Bone Shard Daughter should be on your radar. The magic in this book is amazing, and as perspectives change, so does the PoV they are written in. The initial change between first and third person can take some getting used to, but it really makes the story that much more interesting.
While we follow a few different perspectives in this series, we are only going to talk about one of those perspectives here. Jovis is our reluctant hero of the series.
He sets out to find his wife who was kidnapped prior to the events of the first book. Jovis cares nothing about the politics of the world, all he wants is to find and save his wife.
During his pursuit though, he unearths much more than he expected. Now he is thrust into the hero role that he never truly wanted.
Dragon Mage is probably one of the best self-published fantasy books I have read in a very long time. It is an engrossing story with fleshed-out characters, beautiful friendships, and of course dragons!
In Dragon Mage, we follow two different characters from the ages of 12 up through adulthood. Aram is an odd boy. He doesn’t have many friends and his whole village either terrorizes or ignores him. Until one day he is chosen, along with his only friend, to be a bard’s assistant. This goes downhill fast though as we learn there is much more to Aram and his friend than originally thought.
Aram is quite a fantastic character. He is written as an autistic character, which isn’t something seen in fantasy enough and I loved seeing it. He is written with depth and care and never feels like a caricature. Aram is a unique magic user who simply wants to be accepted, but because of what he is, he must become so much more than he ever expected.
Kings of the Wyld
Finally, we have Kings of the Wyld. This is a ride of a fantasy story! Part This is Spinal Tap part Dungeons and Dragons, and all fun!
This book takes place when our heroes are all middle-aged men. They are past their prime, but long ago they used to be the most famous band of mercenaries in the world. When one member’s daughter goes missing, they must get the band back together one more time to save her.
Our main PoV, Clay, just wants to live out his retirement with his wife and daughter but with his niece’s life basically in the balance, he reluctantly picks up his shield and heads out on one final adventure.
While of course, these aren’t ALL of the fantasy books with reluctant heroes, these are some of my personal top favorites. Hopefully, you enjoy these books! Let me know in the comments what some of your favorites are!